Running west from St Mary Axe, directly opposite The Gherkin, Undershaft is a narrow street behind the Leadenhall Building and St Helen’s (formerly the Commercial Union building). It is named after a maypole (or ‘shaft’) that was erected annually at the junction of Leadenhall Street and St Mary Axe until 1517, when student riots put an end to it (the maypole itself survived until 1547 when it was seized by a mob and destroyed as a ‘pagan idol’.) The 16th-century church of St Andrew Undershaft replaced other church buildings on the site, built in the mid-12th and the 14th centuries. In September 2016, permission was granted for a new building at 1 Undershaft, which has been developed by Aroland Holdings and designed by Eric Parry Architects to replace St Helen’s. The new tower is designed to be built 10.5 metres off the ground in order to create public space underneath. To make room for this, the core will need to be positioned to the side of the tower. As a result, bronze diamond-shaped external cross-bracing will be required, giving the building its nickname, ‘The Trellis’. Upon completion, it will become the second-tallest skyscraper the UK.
Full as Deep is a piece for violin inspired by the fascinating history and the modern spectacle of Undershaft in the City of London. Adjacent St. Helen’s Bishopgate and the Gherkin, this place opens to layers of deep history and at the same time, evokes futuristic anticipation. Thinking about Thomas Tallis’s architectural sonority in his 40 part motet, Spem in Alium, I wanted to explore with layers of colour on the violin. This piece is written for 4 parts which are based on a theme reminiscent of a motet – the lines interweave with one another, expressing its own colour. As St.Helen’s was William Shakespeare’s parish church in the 1590s, the title refers to Shakespeare’s words about a deep beauty from within: ‘The canker-blooms have full as deep a dye' (Sonnet 54).